Your Purpose

Paul has become one of my favorite Bible heroes mostly because he knew his purpose in life and he was determined to fulfill that purpose even if it required his life.

Ananias, the startled and shocked disciple from Damascus, was the first to hear Paul’s purpose and he heard it straight from the mouth of God. “…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  Acts 9:15b, 16

From the very beginning…before Paul had ever even figured out what had happened to him on the road to Damascus, God made known His clear purpose for Paul and the price he would be required to pay to fulfill it.

Paul knew that purpose and declared it over and over again.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”  Romans 1:1, 5b, 6

“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus..” 1 Corinthians 1:1a

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” 2 Corinthians 1:1a

“Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father…” Galatians 1:1a

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” 1 Timothy 1:1

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 1:1

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth…through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.” Titus 1:1a, 3b

Paul confidently declared that his purpose on earth was to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. He did not choose this path. God chose it for him. He did not train for this path. God trained him for it. He did not have the strength for this path. God gave him His own strength.

And what about you and me?

Are we looking for God’s purpose for us or are we too busy fulfilling our own desires?

Are we making excuses? I’m not trained…I don’t have the strength…

Are we afraid of what might happen if we begin to fulfill His purpose for us? Loss of friends? Ridicule? Persecution? Danger?

Ask yourself this – “Is the God who equipped and empowered Paul to fulfill His purpose the same God who has given you a purpose  and who stands ready to equip and strengthen you for the work?”

You know He is.

Stop delaying and making excuses. Just say yes to His purpose and buckle up for the ride!

 

Today I’m joining up with lots of other writers for Five Minute Friday at katemotaung.com. Come and join us!

Photography from CreationSwap

 

 

In the Middle of the Storm

It seems that Jesus liked to teach his disciples important faith lessons in the middle of storms, especially storms at sea. He taught them lessons about who He really was and how they could trust Him because of who He was.

I’ve never been on a little fishing boat in the middle of a storm on the Sea of Galilee, but I have been in the middle of life-storms before. I believe God still puts us in the middle of storms so that He can teach us lessons we wouldn’t learn any other way.

I went through one of those storms once and my faith was just as weak as that of the disciples when they asked Jesus if He didn’t care if they perished in the middle of the storm. It was one of those periods of my life when Bible study and prayer had become much less than a priority. I was attending church and volunteering but I just didn’t take the time to feed myself.

So, when I found myself in the middle of this storm, I felt like my ship was going to sink and that God probably really didn’t care. After all, I hadn’t been bothering to take time with Him – why should He care to rescue me? Wow! See what a lack of time in the Word and a lack of prayer can do to your thinking?

That storm finally ended and the lesson I learned in the middle of that storm? Connect with the God who created and controls the storm before you find yourself in the middle of it.

A year or so later, another storm came up in the form of a miscarriage. I won’t sugar coat it and say that because I had been spending good time with God that I sailed right through the middle of that storm without any problem. However, I was confident that God was with me in the middle of it and that He was going to bring me through to the other side safely. And that lesson has stuck with me ever since then.

Jesus puts us in the middle of storms. Jesus walks with us in the middle of storms. Jesus teaches us in the middle of storms. Jesus brings us through the middle of storms.

And when you come out on the other side? Your faith has been built up just a little bit more, making you a little bit more ready to go through the middle of yet another storm.

photography by Unsplash.com

Today I’m joining many other bloggers over at Five Minute Friday – writing about the word “middle” from many different points of view. Come on over and see what others are writing.

 

To Resolve, or Not to Resolve…

It’s January 10th already. Did you resolve to resolve? Have you broken any of those resolutions yet?

Or, are you like me – resolved not to resolve?

This New Year’s, as I considered whether or not to resolve, I got to wondering. Where did this crazy ritual of New Year’s Resolutions come from anyway? Who started it? And why?

So I decided to Google it. I didn’t really expect to find anything, but searching for the origins of New Year’s Resolutions turned up some interesting information. Skipping over Wikipedia, I came to an article from History.com (you know – the History channel!) and found out that the tendency to resolve has been around for at least 4000 years.

Wow, 4000 years of resolving and breaking and feeling guilty! Can you see why I’m resolved not to resolve?

Anyway – back to the origins. It seems that the Babylonians got the whole thing rolling during their new year’s festivities which happened in mid-March. To gain the favor of their gods, they promised to pay off their credit cards and to return their past-due library books. Well, not really – they promised to repay their debts and return anything they had borrowed that year.

The difference between the Babylonian resolutions and ours? Theirs had nothing to do with improving themselves. It was all about staying in the good graces of their gods. Makes you stop and think. They had to buy grace from their gods. Our God gives it to us freely. Hmm…

If we move along on the timeline to the Roman empire, we’ll see that the urge to resolve continued. Julius Caesar changed the name of the first month of the year to January after the two-faced god, Janus. With his two faces, Janus was looking back into the past and, at the same time, looking forward into the future. So, in January, the Romans offered sacrifices, presumably to make up for their failings in the past year, and made promises to do better in the coming year.

Again, I can’t help but be thankful that our God does not expect payment for the sins of last year. That very expensive payment has already been paid. And promises to do better? No, instead, we have God’s promise that He will finish the good work that He started in us.

The last thing I learned from History.com is that Christians have been resolving for a long time too. John Wesley led Methodists to celebrate a Covenant Renewal Service during which they would prayerfully look back at the past year and at the year to come, resolving with the help of God to march on to spiritual maturity. Some churches call these events watch night services.

I remember attending watch night services. The hours up to midnight were filled with games and singing and food. Then, as midnight neared, everyone would get quiet as the pastor led us in repentance and in seeking forgiveness and in looking to God to lead us in the new year.

This I can understand. But to save it just for New Year’s Eve? I don’t think so. Surely the whole year should be filled with times in which we go to God with our sin and allow Him to forgive and rest in the knowledge that He always offers us second chances.

So…my resolution for 2017? I resolve to go to my heavenly Father just as often as I need a new start – which, of course, is every day.

 

photography by Unsplash.com

Back on Track

Ever have one of those years when the Christmas decorations linger longer than you want to admit? And when the idea of eating any more of the Christmas leftovers makes chills go up your spine? Yeah, we’ve all been there and it’s just a sign that it is time to get back on track.

But it’s so overwhelming! How do you do it when you’re not even sure where the track is?

I’m offering four steps to putting the holiday hullabaloo behind us and getting back on track.

1. Draw Away

Did you know that Jesus taught His disciples to do this one? Mark 6:30-32 says, “The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.” Obviously what was good for the disciples is good for you and me too.

Draw away…to do what?

  • Draw away to breathe – just rest. Remember what Jesus said, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
  • Draw away to pray. When things get really busy and deadlines are closing in, I tend to focus on the to-do list and figure out how to get it done without even thinking about praying. We need time to just sit still and go back to our Father and talk to Him and give Him our schedules and trust Him to make them work…or to change them. (More on this later.)
  • Draw away to read. Get your Bible open. If you haven’t already chosen a Bible reading plan for 2017, pick one out and get started.

Draw away…where? Again, remember what Jesus said, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place…” So draw away to…

  • Someplace quiet
  • Someplace with some privacy

Where would a quiet, private place be? It’s going to depend on you and what distracts you. I love the idea of going to a coffee shop, but all too often I am distracted by the people doing business there – interviewing potential employees, making sales pitches on the phone. I can’t do it. It also can’t be at home because all the things that need to be done there will distract me. For me, the best plan has been to go through the coffee drive-through and then head to the reading room at our local library. Very few people go there and the ones who do expect perfect silence. Works for me, but maybe not for you. Find your place and get ready to go.

Oops, but what about Draw away…how?

If you’re a mom with little kids at home during the day, you probably think drawing away is a pipe dream. It just can’t happen. Don’t give up on drawing away yet. Let’s think about just a morning or just an afternoon. Then think about another mom that you can trade babysitting with. She needs time to draw away too. If you have relatives in the area, explain your plan to them and ask for help. Which of your relatives would not want to help you get back on track? And, if nothing else works, pay a babysitter. Just one morning, just a little time in a desolate place to get back on track.

One little note – if you’re an empty nest mom like me, look around you to see which frazzled mom needs a morning of free babysitting from you.

2. Revamp Schedules

Take an hour out of your drawing-away morning to look at last year’s schedule and to think about ways to make this year’s schedule more workable and more beneficial. Consider these things as you plan out a daily and weekly schedule:

  • Your daily Bible study. I kind of harp on this, but it’s because it is essential – not just important – but essential for your spiritual health and growth. You say you only have fifteen minutes? Great, use that Bible reading plan to read a chapter or two a day. You can do it in fifteen minutes.
  • Dates with your husband. Yes, you need them. Your husband needs them. Yes, they can be cheap. Google it – there are plenty of fun, cheap date ideas out there. Find them and then put it on your schedule – hopefully once a week, but you and your hubby know what will work for both of you.
  • Regular mom time. More time to draw away – maybe once a quarter. Time to spend with your friends – and, yes, play dates count.
  • Cleaning, work, and kids’ schedules. All the stuff that takes up the bulk of your time. Plan it out and spread it out.

And one more word about scheduling – no, wait, two more words! First, use pretty paper. There are lots of free printables on the web. One of my favorites is at https://thepostmansknock.com/category/freebies/. The second word about scheduling – hold it loosely! Schedules are meant to be a guide, not a judgment.

3. Sleep and Drink Water

Pretty simple, but I believe these two are important in getting back on track. I often try to get away with 6 hours of sleep and it never works. I need as close to 8 hours as I can get. As for water…if you’re trying to live on coffee and sodas, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Don’t kid yourself by saying your body just needs liquids. It needs water. Just drink it!

4. Throw It Away

This is your official permission to throw it away. Throw what away? Any number of things – leftover holiday food, Christmas decorations that are broken or faded or that you really don’t like, Christmas cards, all those empty gift boxes that you could use next year, and anything else that is cluttering up your life and making it impossible to get back on track. Just fill up your garbage can with them. It’s okay.

That’s it – that’s all my wisdom on getting back on track for 2017. But, seriously, do it! Take some time to draw away to breathe and pray and read; revamp your schedule (on pretty paper); take care of yourself by sleeping and drinking water; and throw away the junk that can drown you.

Get back on track and have a great 2017!

 

photography by Unsplash.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m having Coffee for Your Heart with Holley Gerth. Join in the fun!

 

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